Beautiful Mount Baker in July, Washington

Mount Baker: A Stunning Place to Play in the Snow in July

Looking for places to spend our summers, away from the scorching heat of Phoenix, we often use Washington and its stunning Mount Baker as our destination. We usually fly to Seattle, then drive around the state, visiting other sites, like Mount Rainier and its gorgeous Paradise, and often add Mount Baker to our itinerary, spending a few days in one of the coolest spots in the US this time of the year.

As we neared Mount Baker, our phones kept sending us “Welcome to Canada” messages. Indeed, we were close to the border, but as much as we love our northern neighbors, we didn’t cross this time.

Driving on the Mount Baker Scenic Byway

After stopping at Bellingham for provisions, we headed up to the mountain, on the Scenic Road, State Route 542. The road follows the Nooksack River to Glacier, a small town we often spent most of our vacations.

We like to rent a home there and use it as a base for our explorations of he area. This time though, we only stopped at the cafe in town for a break.

From Glacier, the road climbs abruptly to Heather Meadows and Artist Point. The weather was perfect, a clear and sunny day, giving us the opportunity to see the snowcapped mountain. We enjoyed the rare sunlight since most of the time we stopped there, the place was clouded and too cold for enjoyment in summer clothes.

View of Mt. Baker
View of Mt. Baker

We walked in the snow, following the Artist Ridge Trail, enjoying a break from the heat of our own summer of over 100 degrees.

We had a beautiful view of Mount Shuksan and the surrounding peaks, and on the other side way down in the valley, we even caught a glimpse of Baker Lake.

View from the trail. Mt. Baker in July
View from the trail

On our way down, we stopped in Heather Meadows. It was too early for the flowers, and the trails we remembered were still under snow. It won’t be until August that hikers could enjoy this area. I missed the spectacle of the heathers in bloom, but we still had a great time. Sitting in the shade of tall pine trees, visited by chipmunks and birds, we enjoyed a late picnic lunch.

Points of Interest – Places to Stop Along the Way

Visitor Center – or Glacier Public Service Center

Before heading up the mountain road, we stopped at the Visitor Center for a few minutes. If you haven’t been there before, this is a great way to learn about Mt. Baker and vicinity. If you don’t have a National Parks Pass, you need to get a pass for the rest of the trip up, since the area is a National Forest.

You can ask the rangers for current conditions on the mountain, especially if you plan on hiking some of the trails. You can also pick up a map with all the trails here.

Nooksack Falls

A short side trip from the road, we stopped at the Nooksack Falls. The trail is short and easy but lined with a fence. As we read, many people lost their lives trying to get a closer look at this dramatic waterfall. The short walk to the viewpoint offers a great view of the Falls.

Nooksack Falls, Mt. Baker National Forest
Nooksack Falls

Horseshoe Bend

My favorite trail in the Mt. Baker National Forest, we hiked it twice during the week. Though 3 miles long, the trail is easy, with not much of an elevation gain. Following the Nooksack River, we hiked through old-growth forest, stopping often to listen to the rushing river and the birds in the trees around us.

On the Horseshoe Bend Trail - The Nooksack River
On the Horseshoe Bend Trail – The Nooksack River

Heather Meadows Area

One of the most spectacular areas in and around Mt. Baker, Heather Meadows is a popular and busy destination. Later in the season, it is filled with heathers, and a few trails take you past them. this time though, the snow was still too high, and we watched people skiing in the area. The Visitor Center has great views of the surrounding wilderness.

Heather Meadows in July. Mt. Baker National Forest
Heather Meadows in July

Artist Point

The end of the road, Artist Point deserves its name. You’ll find the most spectacular views of both Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan, and the surrounding peaks, and valleys. You’ll be able to walk and play in the snow here year-round. This was the first time though that I saw clear skies and sunshine here.

View of Mt. Baker from the Artist Point
View of Mt. Baker from the Artist Point

Artist Ridge Trail

The short, one-mile loop trail was under snow this time. We glimpsed a paved trail under the foot-high snow, so we know it’s there, but we didn’t need it. Walk through the snow and enjoy the spectacular views from the ridge.

A Day Well Spent

Though still daylight, since the sun doesn’t set until 10 pm this time of the year, it was nighttime by the time we headed back to Bellingham for dinner and a room to sleep in.

By then we spent a perfect day on Mount Baker, one of our favorite mountains in the Pacific Northwest. We returned on our last vacation day, to cool down before the desert heat hits us back home.

Things to Know About Mount Baker

At 10,781 feet (3,286 meters) high, Mount Baker is the third highest peak in the North Cascades. It is also the youngest and most glaciated volcanic peak, part of a volcanic field comprising about 20 volcanoes. The mountain features 13 glaciers and holds the world record for the most snow fall in 1998/1999 season, with 95 feet (1,140 inches) of snow.

Known to most of us as Mount Baker, the stunning snowcapped mountain had several other names given by other explorers and the indigenous people who lived in the area.

Other Names of Mount Baker

British explorer George Vancouver gave Mount Baker the name we use today, to honor Joseph Baker, who first saw the mountain while they sailed into Dungeness Bay. By then, the mountain had several other names. Two years earlier, Spanish explorer Manuel Quimper named the peak La gran Montaña del Carmelo.

But long before this, the indigenous people of the area had several other names for the mountain.

According to anthropologist Allan Richardson, an expert of the indigenous languages of the area, each of the indigenous tribes living of the area had different names for the mountain, and often names for specific parts of the mountain.

The Nooksack language had two terms for different parts of the mountain. They called the snow and ice-covered top Kweq’ Smánit, meaning white mountain, and the high meadows surrounding the peak Kwelshán, meaning shooting place, since it was an important hunting ground for them.

The Halkomelem along he Fraser river called it Kwelxá:lxw, the Lummi called it Kwelshán, and the Lushootseed people by the Skaggit river called it Teqwúbe, meaning snow-capped peak.


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